“You are traveling again?! You must be rich!”
“No, I am poor because I spend my money on travels, so you are the wealthy one.”
Haha… No, seriously, travel doesn’t have to be expensive. You would be surprised if you plan your trip correctly, it doesn’t cost a fortune. You could be spending less on your vacation than when you are home (saving this topic for another day). I am no expert, but I would like to share with you some savvy tips on how to save, many of which I have learned from my experience and my many mistakes.
1- ALWAYS USE CREDIT CARDS WHEN YOU CAN
I usually carry with me – US$300, one ATM card, one or two credit cards. That’s it!
Most people I know like to carry a stash of cash with them, just in case. I feel the opposite. I don’t feel secure with all that cash on me. I usually end up bringing back home the $300 emergency cash.
I always use my credit card whenever possible, because you get the best exchange rate!
Forget the traveler’s checks, that’s history. Don’t convert US dollars to local currency at exchange centers unless no ATMs are around, or your ATM or credit card is not working. And never ever exchange money at the airport counters! They rob your hard-earned money.
I withdraw local currency (just what I need for the next few days or the week) at the airport ATM when I land. I use my credit card for everything – accommodation, transportation, meals, shopping. When all the cash is consumed, I head for the ATM again. That is the way I do it.
Of course, the story would be different if I were to visit some third-world country, where ATMs are hard to find and credit cards aren’t widely accepted. So I usually do some research beforehand. You can find out about anything in travel forums.
For example, if you are traveling to Cambodia and you want to make sure there are ATMs at the airport, just type in, “ATMs at Siem Reap Airport” and you get this.
And by the way, if you are given the choice to charge in local currency or dollars, always go for the local currency to get the best rate.
Make sure that your bank and credit card company does not charge international fees. My two favorite credit cards are: Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture. Capital One also reimburses up to $15 in ATM fees per month. These are great cards to have with you, not to mention the mileage benefit that comes along with those credit cards. (more on that next time)
2- CHECK A FEW WEBSITES BEFORE PURCHASING YOUR FLIGHT TICKET.
Look at several booking websites first before deciding. If I am not booking my trip with my miles, I want to make sure I get the cheapest flight.
There are many great flight search engines out there. Here are a few that I like to use:
If you can be flexible with your travel dates, you can save a significant amount, for example, leaving on a Tuesday instead of a Saturday.
You can sign up for newsletters of flight deals:
3- LOOK FOR BUDGET ACCOMMODATION
If you are traveling alone, you can save a lot by staying in hostels, guest houses or even a spa (in Korea) , not to mention the wonderful experience you will gain from it. There are private rooms in some hostels too, if you are not comfortable sharing with others.
You can find budget hotels at:
http://www.agoda.com (Great for Asia)
If you are traveling with a few people, you might find a nice apartment in a local area all to yourselves.
And if you are feeling brave and adventurous, you can give stay at someone’s home for free. Of course, read the reviews from previous guests before booking.
4- STAY AWAY FROM RESTAURANTS IN TOURIST AREAS
Not only are they not authentic local food, but they are way overpriced. I know they are hard to avoid since they are usually in a great location next to main attractions and their menus are written in five different languages.
One thing I love to do is ask the locals where they eat. Don’t ask them, “What place do you recommend?” or “Where should I eat?” but “Where do you eat?” I asked a local for her favorite place to eat when I was in Sevilla, Spain and I loved her recommendation so much that I ended up going there three times during my three-day stay! I must have been their first Asian customer as I got very good service and free food. Since then, I have told quite a few people about this place!
So, stick with local food. Look for hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Walk five blocks in any directions when you are in a tourist area and you will very likely find some good places.
Isn’t it great to spend your money wisely, so that you can use what you saved on something else to make your trip even better?
Do you have any tips to make a trip less-expensive? Please share them with me.